Bonino says Italy won't risk Kazakh relations

Protecting dissident family a priority, says foreign minister

Bonino says Italy won't risk Kazakh relations

(see related)Rome, July 24 - Protecting a Kazakh dissident's family is a priority but Italy won't take measures that will damage its relations with the oil-rich state, Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said Wednesday. "Our interventions are...continuous, relentless and will continue as long as necessary," Bonino told the House and Senate foreign affairs committees on the Ablyazov affair. However, government actions "and reactions that would weaken our diplomatic structure with Astana," the capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan, must be avoided, added Bonino. Bonino appeared to back away from earlier suggestions that Italy was considering expelling the Kazakh ambassador over the affair. Treatment of Kazakh oligarch and dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov and his family have become a national scandal after Italian police, in a nighttime raid in May, seized Ablyazov's wife Alma Shalabayeva, and their six-year-old daughter. The pair were hustled onto a private jet with Kazakh diplomats and flown back to a country whose human-rights record has been questioned by several organisations. Italy has since repealed her expulsion order, but the Kazakh government has said Shalabayeva is under investigation regarding possible bribes paid to immigration and justice officials to create false passports for herself and her daughter. However, Kazakhstan relented Tuesday and said that Shalabayeva and her daughter could be returned to Italy if appropriate financial guarantees were put in place.

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